Posted on | August 3, 2015 | No Comments
If you ask my mother, she can tell you only one true thing about my first day of Kindergarten. She vividly remembers walking down the hallway to my classroom with my hand in hers and with each step, my grip on her hand grew tighter. I didn’t speak, I just squeezed tighter. I’ve always been one to hold on… maybe too hard, maybe too long. I just never have quite mastered the skill of letting things go.
This morning, I fastened a little brown belt around a little boy waist and snapped a picture with him by the front door. I watched him fasten his seat belt in the back of the car, and listened as he told me he was just a little nervous about his first day. From the driver’s seat, I could see his reflection in the mirror: tall, strong, a little boy in a blue and red school uniform. I blinked away a tear and for a moment I could see him there, just a little boy in a blue and white coming home onesie, tightly strapped backwards into the backseat of the same car. I blinked again and the image was gone.
One more blink and we were there, unfastening seat belts and climbing out onto the hard pavement of his new school, feet stepping carefully with his hand pressed into mine as the door loomed ahead. Somewhere along the walk, the grip between us grew tighter, fingers pressing snug against palm and I believe it was me holding too tight.
The classroom was bright and quiet, and he took his place at the table beside his name.
“Do you want me to stay or go?” I asked, silently needing to be needed. Maybe he knew that or maybe he needed me, too.
“I’m not sure,” he said, looking up at me with those same bright eyes that peered up at me from a long ago bassinet in a not so long ago hospital room.
“Then I’ll stay for a bit,” I smiled, hoping my smile would shut in the tears that threatened to fall.
I watched from a distance as he settled in, coloring on the sheet in front of him, possibly oblivious to whether I was still there. It took me a moment to realize I was clutching the arm of his backpack, willing it to connect me to him even as I stood only paces away. His teacher took it from my hand with a smile.
“I’m going to go, bud,” I smiled again and he looked up with a grin and motioned me closer. I stepped in to his hug, feeling the press of his lips on my cheek and the strength of his arms around my back. I couldn’t bring myself to let go, squeezing just a bit tighter before he pulled away.
“Bye mom!” He waved, giving me permission to step away, to step out and allow him to be who he is, a kindergartener in a new school.
I stepped from his room, my hands squeezing into fists as though I could hold in the last scraps of baby… as though my fingers would wrap around the gurgle of his infancy, the breaths of his toddlerhood, the giggles of his pre-school days. As though the force of my wanting could capture it all there in my hands.
I turned the corner away and looked down at my fists, tight and saddened by my side. With a careful sigh, I reached up to wipe away a tear, letting the last few wisps of my baby curl out around my unclenched fists.